the yak
Yaketty yak

05-19-2003: Thank the gods above, I'm back home now. That trip sucked lemur nuts.

Granted, I found some pretty good (or interesting) places to eat... You can see that much in some of the previous yaks. However, the trip itself pretty much stunk.

Probably the biggest bucket of suck was provided by the beloved people in the purchasing department at work, who decided that the week before I was to leave for Chicago was the perfect time to try to renegotiate the contract for the new site I was installing. Mind you, this is after they sat on the new contract for EIGHT WEEKS. Perfect timing! Due to their escapades, I couldn't even move the new equipment in until the fourth day I was there. That put me about two days behind schedule right there. Luckily, I had other tasks to work on - it would have been very productive to be able to work on both sites during those early days, but it wasn't a total loss. Just a stupid one.

Part of "the deal" I made with the manager that is responsible for the site I was working on was that I'd get the weekend off in Chicago, to actually do a little something besides work. Ha-ha, I made a funny. I worked all weekend, albeit slightly more relaxed hours than during the week. During the week, I was working anywhere between 10 and 15 hours a day. A couple of nights, I was just getting to a resturant at ten or eleven at night to get dinner.

Nothing seemed to go right - the racks I was installing equipment into were damaged while being shipped, and I had to bend things back into place. The KVM (keyboard, video, and mouse) switches were screwed up, so I had to keep moving the cables back and forth manually. That wasted a lot of time.

I had to teach myself VRRP and VLAN stuff on Foundry and Cisco networking gear, respectively. Neither are exceptionally hard, mind you, but it would have been nice to have known before I got there, so I could have done a little research. I did get some help from our provider, so that was nice. Oh well, it's resume fodder.

But, I'm not going to turn this into a bitch session. I got home safely, most everything got done, and I still have all my fingers and toes. I didn't get my weekend off, but I'm going to request some comp days as replacements.

On a totally different note, a very good friend of mine got married this past weekend. Actually, to be accurate, she's an ex-girlfriend of mine. But, that's beside the point - the wedding was very nice, the weather held out, and I got to see a bunch of my friends from out of town. I had to extend my work trip two days, so I didn't get back into town until the same day everyone was arriving for the wedding. That made for a very exhausting weekend, but it was definately worth it.

Congratulations, Gina and Jose!

Permalink: 05-19-2003

05-10-2003: I just had what I can only describe as An Experience(tm). You know, the kind of thing that makes you sit for a second in the car before starting it up, chuckle, and mutter "Well, that was an experience..."

I went to a resturant called the Autumn House for dinner tonight. It was right down the street from the datacenter, and I was plenty tired, so I dropped by on my way back to the hotel.

I'm not sure when it happened, but sometime between the moment I stepped out of my car and the moment I went in the front door, I stepped through some sort of space-time portal or rift. I stepped from May, 2003 back into the late 1970's. The booths were huge, and the average age of the other patrons was at least 25 years older than mine (I'm 31).

"The Price Is Right" was on the resturant's two TV's hanging from the ceiling. That's something you don't see every day. And then I realized something else - every single person in that place was watching it. That included the wonderful eastern-European couple that runs the place - everyone was watching Bob Barker getting hugs from young ladies and giving away prizes. Good grief, can I have ladies one third of my age giving me hugs when I'm his age?

I ordered a Michelob, and the steak-n-shrimp dinner. In hindsight, I think there should have been a disclaimer: "Steak-n-shrimp dinner: feeds 12." The food started coming - a half loaf of bread, followed by a salad the size of a fat baby. The salad dressing came in a ceramic bowl the size of a large coffee cup. That was pretty good ranch dressing, too.

And then, the waitress brought out the main course. How she carried the thing, I don't know. The platter must have been eighteen inches across, and it was completely full of food.

And then I saw the shrimp. The menu had listed three jumbo shrimp. Those weren't shrimp, those were abominations. Those were shrimp from Three Mile Island, or Chernobyl, or Bikini Atoll. Those bastards were six inches across! Granted, they were butterflied, but good grief, I think each of them were as large as my outstretched hand.

The steak looked innocent enough. I forgot about the steak when I saw the mound of mashed potatoes. I estimate the mashed potatoes weighed in at approximately nine pounds... And that's before the four pints of gravy.

Back to the steak. Bob Barker was awarding some lucky lady $21,100 in the background as I took the first bite of my innocent-looking steak. Good taste, good bouquet... Boy, this steak is chewy. Not tough, but just plain chewy. For those of you that have tried chicken gizzards, you might know the level of chewiness I'm talking about here - it seemed to spring back after each chew.

"The Autumn House - Home Of The Mutant Shrimp, Mashed Potatoes From Hell, and the Chewiest Steak in Chicago" I thought to myself, as I chewed and chewed and chewed. It was a very good-tasting steak - it was just very .. chewy.

I finished the steak and mashed potatoes, but I couldn't finish the mutant shrimp. Those suckers were destined for more than my digestive tract - perhaps as handgliders, or pontoon boats.

All in all, I sat in that resturant for quite some time, watching "The Price Is Right" with the other patrons, drinking Michelob and cheering as Bob Barker handed out another prize. No, I'm not kidding. Like I said earlier, everyone was watching.

It was An Experience(tm).

Permalink: 05-10-2003

05-09-2003: Well, the saga continues. I'm finally back "home", having returned to my hotel at about 10:30PM tonight. It's been an interesting several days.

Working solo on the road offers many unique opportunities food-wise, as you never have to try to match tastes or urges with a traveling partner. So, I've been taking full advantage of this fact.

Yesterday, I got a wild hair on my ass and decided to try frog legs. At least I think it was yesterday... The days have been kinda melting together. Anyway, I ordered frog legs. And yes, ... wait for it ... they tasted like chicken. Quite literally. The ones I got were deep-fried, so I'm kinda curious to find out if a different preparation would taste a bit more .. well .. frog-leg-like. I have no idea how that would taste, but I'm guessing it wouldn't taste exactly like chicken. Side note - the resturant's name is "Crab & Things." That makes it all worthwhile.

And tonight, I ate at one of my favorite places here, the Spaghetti Warehouse. As always, the service was spectacular, and the food was excellent. For those familiar with the area, it's right at the intersection of Busse and Oakton in Elk Grove Village, IL. Good good food, and you get a nice warm weasel-sized loaf of sourdough bread to chomp on while you wait for your entree.

Ooo oo ooo, I can't forget Pappadeaux on Algonquin in Arlington Heights. They are the Kings Of All Things Seafood(tm). If it swims in the ocean, you can probably order it there. Excellent, excellent food.

Permalink: 05-09-2003

05-05-2003: I saw an odd sight tonight - a good crazy man had gotten out of his car in the middle of a six lane highway, and was trying to herd a pair of geese and four goslings out of harm's way. He's a good man for trying to do it. He's a crazy man for trying to do it in six lanes of Chicago traffic.

He probably would have ended up as today's AOTD if he had gotten schmucked by a passing semi, but for now he's just a good crazy man.

Permalink: 05-05-2003

05-02-2003: Well, I'm off to Chicago for a while.

Work is sending me there for a week and a half to play in a colocation datacenter, doing some routine maintenance as well as install an entire new site. It'll mean long hours in a cool, extremely dry (not to mention loud!) area, under camera surveilance and the watchful eyes of armed guards. Kinda like a nerd prison, I guess.

So much to do, so little time - we're moving a new development site from California to Chicago, so I have racks and servers waiting for me, ready to install in the new cages. There will be cable to pull, and racks to install, and machines to mount. I already purchased a few thousand feet of cable, so I'm ready to go.

The dynamics of the datacenter are quite unique - it is populated almost entirely by nerds, with the occasional account manager or salesperson scurrying through. Nerds are sitting in folding or collapsable lawn chairs, talking into cell phone headsets, typing furiously away on their laptops.

Other nerds are perched precariously on ladders, pulling thick bundles of cable through dozens of feet of ladder tray (cable racks). Some are half-buried in the raised flooring system, pulling other cables through the space below. Somewhere, a cry goes out for fiber.

Someone three cages over is swearing at their EMC frame, and behind them someone else is lamenting over their BGP session with Sprint. An armed security guard goes plodding past, helpfully pointing out the fact that I still have over a thousand feet of cable laying on the floor in the walkway, in long winding loops (it is against datacenter policy to do so, but also almost impossible to avoid when pulling large amounts of cable). I nod and grunt.

Suddenly, a sharp cry echoes through the datacenter: "Fuck!" Someone unintentionally hit the wrong key on their laptop, erasing three hours of router configuration and traffic shaping. No one chuckles - we've done it too.

Someone notices it's 2:30PM, and they haven't eaten lunch yet. By some mysterious power, the nerd hive collectively picks up on this tidbit, and there is a mass exodus to the parking lot to go get lunch. A wide array of vehicles leave, from economy cars through Lexus' and BMW's (lotsa Oracle DBA's and Cisco CCIE's here).

Anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours later, the nerds unfailingly return to the hive, slumping in their foldable chairs or climbing their ladders or crawling back under the flooring. Every hour or so, there is a cheer from the cage farm - a link light just went green, or a server just came online, or they didn't hit the unintentional key that would blow away three hours of their work.

And suddenly, a nerd notices it's 8:30PM, and they haven't eaten dinner yet. The nerdery notices this too, and there's standing room only at the mantrap as everyone leaves for dinner.

Fifty minutes later, we're back - only four or five hours of work to go, and then we can go home to our hotels.

Permalink: 05-02-2003